Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton will call for higher taxes on the wealthy and higher pay for everyone else when she presents her economic agenda Monday, but her remedy for income inequality has already come under fire from the right and the left.
In a speech at the New School in New York, Mrs. Clinton will outline a plan that she says will end more than a decade of wage stagnation that has hobbled the middle class and created a vast income gap between the megarich and the working class — a problem that she identifies as the most urgent economic challenge facing the world.
Details of her economic platform, which will be a cornerstone of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, were leaked over the weekend to reporters, including The New York Times and Washington Post.
The plan is chock full of familiar liberal proposals: increased taxes on the wealthy, a higher federal minimum wage, more government spending on infrastructure projects, new child care benefits, federal subsidies for college tuition and laws to help expand unions.
The former first lady, senator and secretary of state will boast of the record of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who presided over a massive economic expansion that boosted median family income by nearly 15 percent between 1993 and 1999.
However, she won’t be declaring an end of the era of big government, as her husband did.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent and avowed socialist who has emerged as Mrs. Clinton’s chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, said her liberal agenda echoes proposals he’s backed for years, and her allegiance to those ideals remains unclear.
“I have spent my political life taking on the big money interests. I have introduced legislation that would break up the large financial institutions on Wall Street. I think, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist,” said Mr. Sanders.
He noted his longtime support for raising the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to a “living wage” of $15 per hour. Not until recently did Mrs. Clinton endorse a $15 minimum hourly wage.
He said Mrs. Clinton’s positions remain unclear on a range of issues from breaking up Wall Street banks, which Mr. Sanders supports, to President Obama’s pending trade deal with Pacific Rim countries and the opposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, both of which Mr. Sanders staunchly opposes.
Mrs. Clinton is not expected to clarify her positions on these or other hot-button issues in the speech, which is being described as a broad overview of her economic philosophy. The Clinton campaign has promised that future speeches will provide details of how she would reform the tax code and crack down on Wall Street.
“I like Hillary Clinton, and I respect Hillary Clinton. And I’m not going to engage in personal attacks against Hillary Clinton,” said Mr. Sanders. “But there are differences of opinion that we have which should be the basis for a serious discussion.”
The jabs from the right were more pointed.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican candidate for president, said the proposals from Mrs. Clinton would put America on the same path to bankruptcy as followed by Greece.
“Give Bernie Sanders credit: At least he’s willing to call himself a socialist,” Mr. Jindal said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Hillary and President Obama are taking us down that same path, turning the American dream into the European nightmare.”
“We already know what it is going to say,” he said of Mrs. Clinton’s speech. “It is going to be more taxes, more government spending, more regulations. It’s feeding a greedier and greedier government that’s going to swallow up the private sector economy.”
Another Republican presidential candidate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, said Mrs. Clinton’s “big government” solutions actually would widen the income gap.
“The truth is, Hillary Clinton’s ideas create more income inequality. Why? Because bigger government creates crony capitalism,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“When you have a 70,000-page tax code, you’ve got to be very wealthy, very powerful, very well connected to dig your way through that tax code,” said Ms. Fiorina. “What I will continue to point out is the fact that every policy she is pursuing will make income inequality worse, not better, crony capitalism even worse, not better. And, meanwhile, we will continue to crush the businesses that create jobs and middle-class families.”
Ms. Fiorina said that she agreed that income inequality is a “huge problem,” though she said Mrs. Clinton is wrong about how to narrow the income gap.
“Let’s look to the state of California, where I lived for 12 years,” she said. “Liberal policies have been in place for decades, and yet there are 111 billionaires — good for them — the highest poverty rates in the nation, the exodus of the middle class, the destruction of industry after industry. Now they’re destroying agriculture in California.”
She said she agreed with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a rival for the GOP presidential nomination, who set a goal of 4 percent economic growth rather than the current lethargic rate of 1 percent or 2 percent.
Mrs. Fiorina said the focus should be on the “true engine of economic growth and job creation.”
“It has always been small businesses, new businesses, family-owned businesses, community-based businesses that create two-thirds of the jobs and employ half the people,” she said. “And we are now crushing those businesses. In fact, we are destroying more businesses in the United States now than are being created for the first time in our history.”